Pasta with Shrimp and Greens

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Buon giorno!

Pasta is a great energy food. Bikers, runners, and those who need to pack the carbs for a sports event have known this for years. Of course, Italians have always known there was something good and wholesome about it. When you add healthy ingredients which combine to offer great flavor it is a match made in — well you know where! PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is an easy dish to prepare and has a freshness about it that should please everyone.

In the photo, I have used an artisan pasta made from tomato pesto. You certainly do not have to select artisan pasta. Any Spaghetti or Capellini of your choice would work perfectly. The sundried tomatoes bring a touch of sweetness to this that would be missed if not included. I was fortunate for this preparation to get some freshly dried ones at the Farmer’s Market and some fresh Georgia shrimp that came right off the boat the day before – ahhhh!

Warning – there will be no leftovers! Marone what a dish!

PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS

Serves: 2

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 15 minutes

Ingredients

8 oz. Spaghetti, Cappellini etc. prepared according to package directions – or pasta fresca!

1 Bunch Fresh Swiss Chard – Rainbow is nice! (you can also use spinach if you like)

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2-2/3 Cup Sundried Tomatoes – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped

1 lb. Large Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Rinse your Swiss Chard and chop coarsely. Drop into a pot of boiling lightly salted water and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain well. Set aside.

In a pan, saute the garlic and sundried tomatoes for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!

Add the shrimp, red pepper, basil, and Swiss Chard. Then add the wine. Toss in the pan and cook  over medium-medium high until the shrimp is just opaque – about 3-4 minutes – no more!

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

Pour over your cooked pasta and prepare for an amazing taste experience!

This PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is one of those pasta dishes that is just perfect for patio dining or “date night” with a bottle of Falanghina – the Italian white just made for seafood!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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April: Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Sauce

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Buon giorno!

Italians are known for their endless baked pasta ideas. It seems like everyone has one or more. This one is a little different as the sauce is made with ground lamb instead of pork, sausage, or meatballs. What’s the difference? Let’s look closely at this recipe for BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE to find out.

Begin with the lamb: Italians eat a lot of lamb especially in the spring. It is simply a tradition. Could you just as easily use ground beef in this recipe? Well…yes you could do that, but the flavor would be very different. That is what is so unique and amazing about cooking with lamb. Where you start is not necessarily where you end up. Beef cannot possibly achieve the level of flavor that you will get from the ground lamb. Before simmering the sauce has a completely different flavor. When you finish – it is a different story entirely.

The preparation: This is a simple dish – and easy to put together. It is built in layers and comes together in about 40 minutes. It is one of the more flavorful baked pasta dishes mostly because of the use of lamb instead of beef or even sausage. As almost always, I recommend using fresh herbs.

You, your family, and guests will just love it.

BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep and Cook: About 40 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Rigatoni, Mezza Rigatoni ( as you see in the photos), Ziti, or Penne – cooked according to package directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion Chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 C. chopped baby carrots – chop into small bits

2 Stalks Celery – chop into small bits

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 lb. ground lamb

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 14 oz. Canned Tomatoes – crushed or blended slightly

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

10 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – cubed

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Instructions

Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs in the olive oil for about 5 minutes at med. high heat.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 1

Add the ground lamb to the pan and brown – about another 5 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and cook another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes and add the salt and pepper.

Then cook about 15 minutes more.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 2

When finished remove from the heat and let sit a minute to cool. Then add the cream and stir in until blended.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 3

Add the sauce to the pasta and pour into a 15 x 9 inch rectangular baking dish.

Sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix in.

Distribute the mozzarella cubes around the pan and gently mix in.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 4

Baked Rigs - Lamb 5

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and “oozy”.

Garnish with Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley and serve!

*For an interesting addition – try adding a small scoop of warm ricotta cheese, flavored with a little grated Parmigiano, black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley an on each serving.

I like a lovely Barbera D’Alba with this BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Tagliatelle Della Duchessa

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Buon giorno!

In my next life, I want to come back as an Italian “duchessa”. They seem to have all the fun. They have dishes named for them that are rich and memorable. TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA from the region of Emilia-Romagna is one of them. There are too many of these “duchessas” to list, but one of note, Maria Luigia d’Austria, the duchess of Parma and Piacenza is said to have visited a town in the region’s Samoggia Valley, called Bazzano, and the rest, as they say, is history. The dish of dishes which we discuss here was named in her honor.

A little tutorial: Regional Italian dishes are my passion, and the region of Emilia-Romagna provides a bounty of  interesting recipes. This region is probably the best known in the arena of incredibly rich regional foods. Called the “gastronomic heart of Italy, the region is plentiful in the some of the most prized ingredients of Italian cuisine: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamico, Parma Ham, mortadella, white truffles and the frequent use of butter and cream in cooking. The calories from this region are ripe for the ingesting, and you only have to inhale to begin the experience! Yes, the food is undeniably rich but unforgettable.

Another important food of note from the region is pasta – but isn’t pasta everywhere in Italy? Si! That would be true, but it is even more prominent and important in this region. Pasta fresca  (homemade pasta) is revered here. The famous pasta dough from Emilia-Romagna, or sfoglia  (sheet of pasta), is known the world over – eggs and flour.

Pasta Sfoglia, also from this region, is a kind of puff pastry which  is used for pastries like the well known sfogliatelle.

The Pasta: The most authentic version of this dish, is made with fresh Tagliatelle, which you see here as a semi wide noodle. You could, however, use another pasta, if you like.

The Sauce: This is a really beautiful dish and is so easy to prepare in the tradition of Emilia-Romagna with butter and cream. The chicken livers are just browned and sauteed a little in the butter which a signature preparation of many foods in Emilia-Romagna. There are not many ingredients required, but those that are – come together to make a rich and wonderful sauce for the pasta. A little fresh parsley and you’re done!

The dish is simple really. Just look at the list of ingredients. However, they come together to create a heavenly traditional example of the one of the best of preparations for this region.

TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. Cooked Tagliatelle  – fresh made or another similar pasta

5 Tbsp. butter

3/4 lb. Chicken Livers

(1 Cup of Green Peas can be added  – although they are not in the authentic preparation. I add them sometimes just because they work and I like them!)

3 Egg Yolks, room temperature

2/3 C. Warmed Heavy Cream

1 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated (the premier cheese from the region)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Lots of Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Prepare your pasta. You will want it to be timed to be piping hot when you add some of the ingredients below.

Pat the chicken livers dry with paper towels. This is a MUST, so they do not steam. Then cut them into pieces.

Duchessa 1

Cook the chicken livers in the butter in a shallow pan until they are browned and cooked through – about 8 minutes.

Duchessa 2

Duchessa 3

Add some salt and pepper.

(This would be the time to add the peas if using them.)

Make sure your pasta is hot at this point!

Immediately add the livers to the pasta and toss.

Duchessa 4

Mix the egg yolks with the cream and add to pasta right away, mixing well. The yolks will cook on the hot pasta.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss.

Duchessa 5

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Garnish with lots of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley and serve!

This beautiful TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA begs for a vino rosso that is bright but not too heavy like a Toscana or a Barbera. The perfect regional pairing would be a DRY Lambrusco from the area, but they are hard to find in the US. If you happen upon one – Buona!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta Cacio e Pepe

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Buon giorno!

Cacio e Pepe – cheese and pepper – what more do you need?? Not much I say to make the easy, rustic, and traditional PASTA CACIO E PEPE – Pasta with Cheese and Pepper which is one of the signature pasta dishes of the Lazio region where Rome is located.

So what’s the big deal – cheese and pepper? Believe it or not – the combination is really quite wonderful when prepared in the proper way. The idea is to heat butter and a little olive oil to the point where the cheese melts into it. This happens quite quickly and the pepper is added. This very simple sauce is added to hot pasta and the rest of the story is the absolute ecstasy which awaits in your bowl. Is it that easy? Really? As in most Italian dishes, the answer is yes – it is just that simple. A lot of extra ingredients are not necessary. The key to remember is that your ingredients MUST be good. This means no cheese from the “green can”, no margarine, etc. The best of ingredients insures the best of Italian dishes always.

Very often Pecorino Cheese is the recommended choice of grated cheese for this dish – especially the Pecorino Romano of the region. However, since it carries some additional saltiness with it, I like to combine it with some Parmigiano-Reggiano which seems to be the perfect blend for me.

Let’s look at Roman food for a moment…

My mother’s family was from Minturno, a beautiful coastal city, in the region of Lazio, and growing up – I was accustomed to many of the Roman dishes which she made for us that are so representative of this region. Remember that this area dates back to ancient times, and the recipes are sealed in the ancient culture which was once the heart of an empire and remain favorites today. There was the abbachio – the milk fed lamb prepared at Easter, the famous Carciofi alla Romana and alla Giudia – one braised  – the other deep fried and crisp, the Stracciatella (no not the gelato!)  – the delicate chicken based soup with lemon, cheese, and strained egg, the spicy Arrabbiata Sauce, and Agnello al Scottadito the baby Lamb Chops grilled or seared so hot as to burn the fingers!

Now that I have your attention and you are sufficiently hungry – let’s get on with PASTA CACIO E PEPE  one of the great Roman dishes, known for its simplicity!

PASTA CACIO E PEPE

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Spaghetti or Pasta Fresca (this is really best with fresh pasta!)

3/4 Cup Reserved Pasta Water (the water your pasta cooks in)

1 Stick Butter

4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino Cheese

1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

1 Tbsp. Fresh Coarse Ground Black Pepper or Cracked Black Pepper (I have seen more pepper than this used, but this amount works best for me)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a final drizzle

Additional grated cheese for serving

Instructions

Cook your pasta according to directions and reserve 3/4 C. of the pasta cooking water.

Make sure to time your pasta so that it is very hot when you mix it with your sauce.

Melt the butter in the oil in a pan.

Cacio e Pepe 1

Add the grated cheese and the pepper.

Cacio e Pepe 2

Add 1/2 cup of hot pasta water to the pan. Stir and melt the cheese into the butter and oil quickly. As soon as this happens, you are ready to add this sauce to your hot pasta.

Toss it well and add the additional hot pasta water as needed to the pasta. You may not need it all.

Give the pasta a final drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with additional grated cheese.

I like to serve my PASTA CACIO E PEPE with a medium bodied vino rosso. A Chianti Classico would be perfect!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta Salad Alla Norma

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Buon giorno!

One of the classic Sicilian pasta dishes is the famous Pasta Alla Norma. There are many variations of this dish mainly consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, and Ricotta Salata Cheese along with some hot pepper flakes.  It is a personal favorite of mine which made me curious about how it might be if one were to serve it as a pasta salad at room temperature with a few additional touches – and thus we have PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA.

Before we dive into the recipe, it is probably a good idea to answer a question first: Who exactly is Norma and why does she get a pasta dish named for her? Norma was the tragic heroine of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name. This opera and character was so revered in the 19th century by the Sicilian people that they named a pasta dish for her. The opera is heavy on the melodrama including much about fire and funeral pyres – thus the inclusion of hot pepper flakes in the dish.

This rendition is more of a room temperature pasta salad including all of the classically required ingredients and the addition of a couple of extras like the famous Sicilian olive called Castelvetrano after a Sicilian town in the province of Trapani. You might know these olives by their absolutely brilliant and vivid green color – almost a blue green. They are gorgeous, mild, and fruity. I just love them and include them in cooking because of their mildness and extraordinary color. They contribute to giving this dish its gorgeous presentation.

Add in some red wine vinegar and pignoli nuts – and you end up with some “wow”!

This is a really flavorful dish. My husband who likes meat in everything makes a couple of exceptions and this is one of them. He just loves it!

Traditionally Pasta Alla Norma calls for shaved Ricotta Salata – a solid salty ricotta cheese which I suggest here. However, if you can’t find it, a nice Pecorino will fill the bill.

Let’s get on with it, as I can hear Norma wailing at the pyre now – and it is hard on the ears!!

 

PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA

Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Cooked Pasta (I like a chunky pasta for this like Ziti, Mezza Rigatoni, Strozzapreti, Fusilli Pugliese, Penne etc.)

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Early Girl Tomatoes, or Campari Tomatoes – cut

4 Cups Sliced and Cut Eggplant as shown in photo (peeled or unpeeled)

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

1/3 Cup Chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 Cup Pignoli Nuts (pine nuts)

1 1/2 Cups Pitted Castelvetrano Olives

Shaved Ricotta Salata Cheese ( you can substitute Pecorino if needed)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

You can press your eggplant a couple of hours ahead if you like to rid it of any bitterness. Do this by slicing it and layering between paper towels. Then put some heavy weight on top. After a couple of hours, discard the paper towels and proceed with the eggplant as suggested.

Norma 1

Choose some gorgeous ripe sweet tomatoes for this. These are “Early Girls”.

Norma 2

Mix the tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes together in a bowl.

Pour olive oil and vinegar over the top of the above, add salt and pepper, and mix gently.

Pour onto a baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until the eggplant is fork tender and to your liking.

Norma 3

Add the olives and the pignoli and gently toss.

Pour all of this over the cooked pasta immediately along with any juices in the pan. Mix together.

Top with shaved Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Cheese.

Add a drizzle of a nice peppery extra virgin olive oil.

Serve your PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA at room temperature or cold, if you like, as your main course or as a beautiful side dish with a nice bottle of Sicilian red – like a Nero D’Avola.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

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Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!

PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE

Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!

Instructions

Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

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July: Mac and Cheese Italian Style

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Buon giorno!

OK – Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. Usually the opposite is the case – can’t get enough of it – want it every day – can’t resist it when it is served. This one will get the attention of the all who love the cheesy oozy comforting goodness of this classic dish. Only this time – we’re giving it that Italian “edge” with MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE! If you can resist this one – Calabrisi does not end with an “I”!

 

We’re taking a slightly different turn with this though. It is not the orange colored mac and cheese we are so used to seeing from those… boxes. I make this with all kinds of short pastas – you choose! It is great with gnocchi as well. This recipe uses Fontina – the Italian melting cheese with the nutty flavor – that will take care of the OOZY. We add White Cheddar for the CHEESY. The Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago is there.. well, because why in the world wouldn’t we want it there??? The wine gives it that hint of loveliness, and we get touch of sweet from the butternut squash. You get the idea! We add one flavor level after another – until we hit the max… and then… we add (optional but incredible) seafood – lobster or shrimp. We have just cracked the ceiling of culinary heaven!

 

As if that is not enough – those who look for that something extra which makes this a truly distinctive and complex dish will finish with a “touch” of White Truffle Oil – oh YEAH!! Actually, I probably had you at Fontina – but gilding the lily is just, well, fun. So why not go for it. I think I can actually sense some palpitations here and with good reason. This is a VERY special dish!

MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Short pasta or gnocchi – cooked

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Chopped Pancetta – chops easier if partially frozen!

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Flour

3/4 C. White Wine or Dry Vermouth

2 C. Half and Half or heavy cream – warmed

1 C. Grated Fontina

1 C. Grated Sharp White Cheddar

1/2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

1/2 C. Sliced Black Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

2 C. Chopped Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 C. Sliced almonds

1 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs (not dried)

Drizzle of White Truffle Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

OPTIONAL BUT AMAZING: 1 lb. Cooked Lobster Meat or 1 lb. Cooked Shrimp

Instructions

Roast the Butternut Squash tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside.

1 Roasted Butternut Squash

Cook pancetta in oil and butter until just crisp.

Add onion and cook until tender.

2 Mac and Cheese

Add garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic!!

Add the flour and, stirring, cook the rawness out for a couple of minutes.

3 Mac and Cheese

Add the wine – cook a couple of minutes at medium high. It will thicken.

5 Mac and Cheese

Reduce heat a little and add the cream, stirring until it thickens again.

6 Mac and Cheese

Add the cheeses and melt in, stirring. Taste for seasoning. I like freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt.

7 Mac and Cheese

Add the olives, basil, squash and seafood, if using. Stir in.

8 Mac and Cheese

Toss the pasta with this sauce fully incorporating it. Use ALL of the sauce as you want it very “saucy and cheesy”.

Pour into a buttered baking pan or individual baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and sliced almonds.

9 Mac and Cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pop under the broiler  for a minute if it is not golden brown on top from baking.

Drizzle with the white truffle oil – just a bit as a little goes a LONG way with this pretty amazing addition! — or drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve your MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE as a main course or as a side at your next grilling event. Prepare for raves on this one!!! Take your bow and…

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta Con Cipolle

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Buon giorno!

Pasta with onions – so what’s the big deal? Onions – who likes onions? Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all. For the non-believers, you are really missing something. For those who want to come along for the ride – you are in for a major treat and a winning dish. PASTA CON CIPOLLE  or Pasta With Onions is one of the most flavorful and enjoyable pasta dishes I know. Trust me on this one. It’s something special.

Although, this is a good Lenten dish, it is also a beautiful light pasta dish to serve in the spring and summer months – out on the patio perhaps. It is a bit of a surprise. It appears to be so simple and yet has a richness that is both memorable and satisfying. The onions caramelize to give the pasta a deep buttery flavor that is most unexpected and welcome.

And, of course, I should mention that it is one of “Tom’s favorites!” That’s the hubster, for those who may not know, and he really loves this one.

PASTA CON CIPOLLE

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 18-20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pasta cooked according to package directions ( I like spaghetti for this dish)

3 Large Sweet Onions – sliced thinly

1/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + extra for a finishing drizzle (The Extra Virgin adds flavor.)

3/4 C. Chicken Broth (Vegetable broth can be used if preferred)

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/2 C. Sliced Olives (Regular Black or Kalamata)

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste (lots of pepper!)

Fresh Basil chopped for garnish

Plenty of grated cheese to serve

Instructions

Cook the sliced onions in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium high heat about 6 minutes.

Pasta Con Cipolle 1

Add the broth and red pepper flakes and cook about 10 minutes more until the onions are tender and golden in color.

Pasta Con Cipolle 2

Add the butter and melt in.

Pasta Con Cipolle 3

Add the olives and cook a minute more.

Pasta Con Cipolle 4

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

Pour the sauce over your pasta and toss well.

Finish with a good drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Garnish your PASTA CON CIPOLLE with fresh basil and serve with plenty of grated cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, or even Pecorino are all good with this.

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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Harvest Pasta with Artichoke Pesto

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“Buona Festa Pasta”

 

Harvest Pasta finish with script

Buon giorno!

I am a believer in using seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Cooking with vegetables in season is always best, as you catch them at the peak of their flavor, goodness, and time in nature. HARVEST PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE PESTO  or (Buona Festa Pasta as I like to call it) is not only a great fall seasonal pasta to serve but it also provides a beautiful visual at your Italian table. Decidedly, this is  – hands down  – the most flavorful vegetable pasta  in my “arsenal”.

It is certainly easy, requiring just two steps: roasting your vegetables and making your artichoke pesto in a blender or food processor.

Choose your pasta for this one! In the photo, I’ve selected Fettucine Verde – for color and added veggie goodness. However, this recipe is one of those that is great on short chunky pasta as well – like penne, rigatoni, or farfalle. Whatever you choose – it won’t be lacking in flavor. This one is packin!  The Artichoke Pesto in this dish has so much incredible flavor. And, oh – the addition of White Truffle Oil, if you choose to use it is just perfection – remember just a few drops. Have fun with it!

 

HARVEST PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE PESTO

“BUONA FESTA PASTA”

Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes to roast vegetables

Ingredients for Artichoke Pesto

1 1/2 Cans (14-15 oz. size) Artichoke Hearts, rinsed, drained, chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

3/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Instructions

Place the artichoke hearts, sage, garlic and grated cheese in a food processor or blender.

Haarvest Pasta 2

Turn on the machine and while processing, gradually pour in the extra virgin olive oil in a stream until all is used and incorporated. It will be pasty. Add additional extra virgin if you think it needs it before serving. Set aside until ready to serve.

Harvest Pasta 3

Ingredients for Roasted Vegetables

2 C. Diced Fresh Butternut Squash

2 C. Chopped Fresh Brussel Sprouts

1/2 lb. Wild Mushrooms, sliced

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Chop all vegetables and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Harvest Pasta 1

Spread them in a single layer on a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until just tender.

To Serve:

Prepare 1 lb. pasta according to package directions– fettucine is used in the photos. You can use long or short pasta – up to you!

While still very hot -toss your pasta with the Artichoke Pesto coating well.

Idea #1: Add the roasted vegetables and gently toss.

Idea #2: Another choice is to spoon the vegetables over each individual dish of pasta – serving them on top as in the photo.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or White Truffle Oil – my favorite! As always with the White Truffle Oil – only a few drops per serving!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil

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Mushroom Pasta 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Much is made of the worth and special distinction of the truffle – the roundish, lumpy “fungus” found under the roots of trees and sometimes hunted using very special pigs and dogs, with a sense of smell known only to the divine. However, the White Truffle, in particular, draws the oohs and ahs of most chefs and gourmands.  Even the French expert, Savarin, called them the “diamonds of the kitchen.”The White Truffle is considered one of the most revered of cooking delicacies. Of very special note is its use in the dishes of Northern Italy where the much valued White Truffle is found. Here, the use of this treasured ingredient in the form of oil, in the dish, WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL, is representative of many of the dishes of the Langhe area of the Piedmont region.

As with many prized ingredients, the White Truffle is not for everyone. It has a very “funky” and earthy smell and taste which is pronounced. It is often lightly grated on dishes, and it doesn’t take much of it to make its presence known once added. As much as it is valued, not all savvy foodies appreciate it. Sometimes I think it is because they experienced too much of it at once. A very small amount is sufficient. It is extremely expensive and puts it out of the price range of most food shoppers.

Along with wild mushrooms, the fall season usually heralds the arrival of the White Truffle in the finer Italian restaurants, it often makes a much touted entrance. I remember dining in a fine regional Italian restaurant and thought I almost heard trumpets sound the introduction of the White Truffle to the dining room. Well – maybe not trumpets – but the chef did emerge from the kitchen with an assistant in tow, pushing a cart clothed in white, featuring a tall glass dome with a tiny lump of a musty gray substance under it. They scurried over to one of the tables and proceeded to lightly grate the tiniest amount over some risotto–followed by an audible OOOOO and AHHHH. Quickly, they hastened back to the kitchen with the cart and domed prize only to disappear behind closed doors. This little fanfare bore a tidy price tag!

Well – so why would we want to mortgage the farm for this tiny bit of grated ecstasy? We wouldn’t! There is another way that we can appreciate the joys of the White Truffle – and that is using White Truffle Oil.

White Truffle Oil

It is sold in most specialty markets most often in small bottles. Yes, it is more expensive than Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually – but the idea is to use it in very small amounts. Less is indeed more! The very tiny amount is not only sufficient but also just enough to give the dish a sensational essence of earth without making you run for the exit. Tiny is all you need!

The fact is – when you use the oil properly and sparingly, as we will in this dish, it is quite lovely and transforms the mushroom pasta to something quite desirable. The combination of the White Truffle Oil and the wild mushrooms, is one of those marriages heavenly inspired. They join well with the butter, used so often in the dishes of the Piedmont to produce a very rich, serious, and quite beautiful fall dish you will love to serve in the presence of a roaring fire and a fine bold vino rosso.

WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients

5 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/3 C. Pancetta chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic finely chopped

1/4 C. Finely chopped Shallot

3/4 Cup Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

1 lb. Assorted Cleaned and Sliced Wild Mushrooms such as Crimini, Porcini, Shitake, Oyster etc.

2 Tsp. White Truffle Oil + more for drizzle before serving

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

Grated Asiago or Montasio Cheese (Both of these cheeses are from Northern Italy and are perfect for the dish. Parmigiano may be substituted.)

Instructions

Melt butter with the olive oil in a pan. Add pancetta and cook 2-3 minutes.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 1

Add garlic and shallot and cook 2 minutes more.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 2

Then add the mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and herbs. Cook a couple of minutes more at medium high.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 4

Pour in the vermouth and cook at medium high until it reduces down by 1/2.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the 2 Tbsp. butter to finish.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 5

Add to the pasta and toss well to coat. (Fresh made Tagliatelle was used for the photo. Fettucine or Spaghetti are also fine for this dish.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Add the additional 2 Tbsp. Butter and toss into the pasta.

Drizzle with a small amount of White Truffle Oil. Do NOT over pour with this oil. Just a small amount is sufficient. It is quite powerful.

Serve with the grated cheese.

Because I most often like to serve wines from the region of origin for a particular dish, I would pair WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL with a more serious choice of wine from the north, perhaps from the Langhe where the White Truffle is found, such as Barolo or even Barbera d’Alba. I like a high tannin presence with this dish to stand up to that funky quality of the truffle and the earthy nature of the wild mushrooms. Neither of these choices, I don’t think, would disappoint!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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September: Mezzi Rigatoni Con Salsiccia e Olive

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Contest - T

Buon giorno!

It must be that Sicilian Thing. No not the one you’re probably thinking of – the one where Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone contemplates his next power play for the family business . I’m talking about the “other one” – the great Sicilian way of cooking great dishes with their traditional ingredients. Many of these ingredients were introduced over centuries of conquering by the Moors and others who influenced their cuisine in a very distinctive way. When I saw the mezzi rigatoni in the mix of possible pasta choices for the Delverde “Dish Your Blog” contest – I thought of nothing else but Sicily and the mix of these ingredients. Thus – the creation of MEZZI RIGATONI CON SALSICCIA E OLIVE seemed inevitable.

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“This recipe is posted as an entry in the Delverde DISH YOUR BLOG recipe contest to try to win a trip to NYC. Some entrants may have received free sample products in addition to the opportunity to compete for the prize.”

A word about the pasta: The delicious and different mezzi rigatoni ( half rigatoni) are the perfect choice for an olive oil based sauce – Sicilian Style – using the traditional ingredients in many dishes from this island of culinary bounty. They were the perfect size, shape, and texture to coexist with the colorful and tasty choices of ingredients I chose. The Delverde Mezzi Rigatoni offer a superior texture – so well cut that you can actually taste the “ribs” on each little tube.

Beginning with the expected olive oil and fresh garlic, good Italian sausage anchors this dish as in many Sicilian recipes. For color and further interest, a combination of Kalamata and the famous intensely bright Castelvetrano olives of Western Sicily offered a touch of the bitter with the sweet and meaty.

Olives

The basic flavors were now set! I included sun dried tomatoes to add balance with brightness and sweetness– with color as an added benefit. The fresh Sage, thought in ancient times to have medicinal qualities, spiked the dish with a subtle injection of aromatic spice. Rounding out with toasted pignoli, often the Sicilian choice of nut, gave this mouth watering heap of mezzi rigatoni a hint of roasting while adding texture.

Delverde 3

Shall we add a dash of red pepper flakes for a tiny jolt of heightened pleasure? You’ve got the idea! That Sicilian Thing has made a statement here especially when a bold grated Pecorino is passed among the guests for a final finish to a dish of mighty flavors.

Delverde new finish T

MEZZI RIGATONI CON SALSICCIA E OLIVE

(Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Olives)

Serves: 4

Prep: about 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Delverde Mezzi Rigatoni

1/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Fresh Garlic Cloves – chopped finely

3 Links Italian Sausage ( about 3/4 lb.) – crumbled with casings removed

1 C. Chopped Pitted Castelvetrano and Kalamata Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil (oil drained)

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage

1/4 C. Toasted Pignoli (pine nuts)

Dash of Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Pecorino Cheese for serving

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Place the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan.

Add the sausage and brown in the oil.

Add the olives, sun dried tomatoes, fresh sage, pignoli, and red pepper. If needed, add salt and pepper.

Cook just a few minutes until heated through and flavors combine.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir in.

Drizzle generously with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve with grated Pecorino.

Your MEZZI RIGATONI CON SALSICCIA E OLIVE  is ready to be enjoyed with your favorite vino rosso!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta with Swiss Chard

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Eat your greens!

Penne Swiss Chard

Buon giorno!

I don’t know how many times my mother, Loretta, would tell me “Eat your greens” – when I was growing up. Greens were a staple in our house. We had them all sorts of ways and most of them – sadly, I hated until I matured and grew a “palate”! However, one of those greens, Swiss Chard, always passed the taste test with me. Swiss chard is sweeter than most greens and can be used for — well – everything. Here, I offer PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD, which will more than surprise you in flavor and enjoyment, while at the same time presenting a healthy choice for dining.

My mother used to make a lovely concoction of Swiss Chard and tomatoes and served it over rice – which, by the way, she strangely preferred to pasta. Whenever she cooked it, I cheered, as I loved it so much. No meat – but amazingly satisfying anyway.

I suppose you could throw some meat into PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD – but you don’t really need it. The greens and tomatoes do all the work here, and trust me on this one – you carnivores won’t miss it. This is a light pasta dish – but no one goes home hungry – and yes – a perfect dish for a meal on the patio! Almost any pasta will do. If you prefer something long and stringy – go for the spaghetti types. I like a chunkier pasta with this – a penne, ziti, rigatoni –or even tortelloni – yum!

Italians and greens: Italians have had a long love affair with greens. From the noted “peasant dishes” harvested from individual family gardens to the more complex stuffed and creative items of  haute cuisine, Italians have incorporated them in their cooking for centuries. They eat them as sides – they make pasta with them – they use them in soups and on and on. It can be said that greens are one of the most common of staples found at the Italian table.

About Swiss Chard: For those unfamiliar, Swiss Chard is a green vegetable sold in bunches. You’ll find it with green veins, red, veins, or “rainbow” veins and stalks (red and yellow). They are very pretty to cook with. You can use any of these varieties for this recipe.

Rainbow-Chard-2a_thumb (1)

Working with Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard is so easy to use. It doesn’t need much prep. First, you should always clean it by rinsing or soaking in water – then draining. The chard is usually sandy so you’ll need to do the rinsing. It takes just a couple of minutes. I like to lay it out on paper towels to dry if I’m not using it immediately. You can use just the leaves, if you like. You simply tear them off the stalks into pieces. If you want to use the stems – they are quite tasty and can be chopped and used along with the leaves. Your choice. OR – you can tear the leaves off and use them alone.

Ribollita_05_thumb1

Looking for something quick and easy? This is your huckleberry!

So in honor of every time you heard “eat your greens” growing up – let’s eat as the Italians do, and dive into a healthy and incredibly delectable pasta experience!

PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD

Makes: enough for a pound of pasta

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: About 25 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pasta cooked according to taste – I prefer a chunky variety like ziti, penne, rigatoni, tortelloni

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Clove garlic – chopped finely

1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard – green, red veined, or rainbow (yellow and red) – cleaned – chop stalks, if using and tear the leaves into pieces

3 C. Chopped tomatoes – 2 14 oz. Cans or 1 28 oz. Can works. If tomatoes are whole – chop them or pull them apart with your hands!

Piece of rind of any delicious Italian cheese if you have one – adds soooo much flavor

1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Some Fresh Parsley – chopped

Grated cheese for serving – your choice of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano suggested

Instructions

Clean your chard by soaking or rinsing and draining.

Chop your Swiss Chard as explained above in the ingredients section.

Place the olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic. Cook over medium heat for just a minute – do not brown or burn.

Add the Swiss Chard, tomatoes, rind, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Swiss Chard

Simmer at medium high until most of the liquid has cooked off, turning occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes. You should have a thick and concentrated sauce with the greens left.

Toss with the pasta.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano.

Just want to share that my husband is one of those carnivores who thinks meat is necessary in every dish. This PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD is hands down one of his favorite dishes.. and he never misses the meat!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Penne Pasta with Sausage and Arugula

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Penne w Sausage & Arugula

Buon giorno!

In for a “penne” in for a pound! However, you do it – count me in! Penne pasta has that universal chunky shape that seems to go just perfectly with almost any sauce. For me, PENNE PASTA WITH SAUSAGE AND ARUGULA  hits all the right notes for a quick and satisfying pasta dish that isn’t too heavy. There is no long cooking sauce to make with this.

Talk about fresh and easy! You can’t beat this one – with just a few ingredients and very little prep.

For those who might not want the sausage – they can just leave it out and still come out with a great dish. For my taste though, the combo of the sausage with the arugula, cherry tomatoes, etc. knocks the dish out of the park.  The addition of sun dried tomatoes offers a little sweetness and acid to the added “heat” of the red pepper flakes and the oil  – lots of balance here.

I like using fresh Thyme leaves in this dish. If you have Thyme or Lemon Thyme planted in your garden, you know what a treasure it can be, in that it adds so much to your recipes. If you don’t have it – start planting. Thyme is a beautiful, easy, and useful herb to grow. It also does very well in pots!

Thyme

In Italian cooking, you’ll find the pairing of sausage with leafy greens again and again varying the different types of the greens like arugula, kale, and very often broccoli raab, or rapini. The Southern Italians use this combination in so many of their dishes. I happen to like the arugula for its peppery flavor and lack of bitterness which is so prominent in the broccoli raab.

To top it all off – it’s just a beautiful visual! Troppo bella!

PENNE PASTA WITH SAUSAGE AND ARUGULA

Serves: 4

Prep: about 10 minutes

Cook:  10 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Penne Pasta, Ziti, or Mostaccioli– cooked according to package directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Links Italian Sausage – I like a mixture of hot and sweet (mild) – sliced or out of the casings broken into bits

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 1/4 C. Yellow or Red Cherry Tomatoes – sliced in half

1/3 C. Sundried Tomatoes – packed in oil and chopped

6 C. Arugula (Sounds like a lot – but it shrinks!)

2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme leaves

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle

Grated Pecorino Cheese to serve

Instructions

Cook your pasta as your package directs.

While the pasta boils, cook your sausage, garlic, hot red pepper flakes, in the oil in a pan until the sausage is done.

Add the sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and Thyme.

Toss and cook until the arugula wilts – about 5 minutes.

Penne with sausage and arugula

Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix well.

Drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with grated Pecorino.

I like to serve my PENNE PASTA WITH SAUSAGE AND ARUGULA with a bold vino rosso. Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva from the Puglia region is about as perfect a match as you can get with this, I think. It is affordable, has beautiful flavor, and offers just enough body to stand up to the sausage. Salute!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

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Sometimes Sausage is just optional –

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce09

Buon giorno!

Move over tomato sauce. There’s a new saucy broad in town – and she’s a fiery redhead! So who’s the dish? It’s PASTA WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE – and this gal has attitude!

Some days she’s a vegetarian and sometimes she adds a meaty companion – in this case, sausage. The sausage adds a mighty flavor boost and is a good compliment I think. However, there is no reason why this dish should not be meatless. It is an outstanding sauce with so much flavor on its own that it will satisfy the veggie appetite.

Like Vellll-vet: Just look at this bright vivid coral colored sauce! GAW-geous! This sauce is one that everyone will love. Surprisingly, even if you don’t like red peppers, you will enjoy it, as it takes on a velvety texture and mild flavor when cooked with the other ingredients – i.e. onion, Mascarpone etc. It is not unpleasantly spicy or strong – quite the opposite. It is smooth, almost sweet, and sooo delicious.

The Pasta: You’ll notice that I used Pappardelle Pasta – the long wide flat macaroni for this demonstration. I just happen to like it and was “in the mood”. The fact is, you can use many other types of pasta with the sauce very successfully. Some suggestions: Penne, Ziti, Rigatoni, Orrechiette, Pasta Fresca, Gnocchi and Polenta etc. Use what you like! You see how versatile this sauce can be. One guarantee is that this easy to make sauce will rock the house!

Tips: I like to roast my peppers ahead and refrigerate them – which really makes the creation of the sauce quick and easy. For a simple tutorial in roasting peppers check out this link for the step by step: Sovana and the Mystery Dish It is really easy and just takes a few minutes. The result is amazing. These roasted peppers, useful for so many things, are absolutely superior when you make them yourself. I remember my mother, Loretta, used to roast them over an open flame on the gas stove. You can do that – but the method in the link is a little easier, and you can do several at the same time. Quick and easy- the name of the game!!

Let’s make some sauce!

PASTA WITH ROASTED RED  PEPPER SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 60 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pasta (Suggestions: Pappardelle, Penne, Ziti, Rigatoni, Orrechiette , Pasta Fresca, Gnocchi or Polenta etc.)

1 1/2 lb. Italian Sausage (optional) – Recommend mixture of Hot and Sweet – cooked and sliced

4 Roasted Red Peppers (See step by step instruction here: Sovana and the Mystery Dish )

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Mascarpone Cheese

Chopped Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley for garnish

Plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese to serve with the finished pasta

Instructions

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Roast peppers as recommended above. You can roast them the day before and refrigerate, if you like.

Roasting Peppers

Roast peppers 2

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce01

Cook Sausage (if using).

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce02

Saute onion in olive oil at medium high heat for just a few minutes until tender.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce03

Add chopped garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce04

Add the roasted peppers to the pan.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce05

Then add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce06

Put the mixture in a food processor or blender and process until it becomes a VERY smooth light puree.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce07

Now transfer the puree back to your pan. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Heat through. Add mascarpone and mix into the sauce. This is the point at which the sauce transforms to that beautiful coral color!

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce08

Add your cooked sliced sausage (if using) and toss.

Mix with pasta – garnish with parsley – Serve with plenty of cheese.

The choices for wine to pair with PASTA WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE are as many and varied as the choices for pasta. I must have vino rosso with this dish. However, from there your experience can choose a couple of different paths.Your red might be better on the lighter side but with the smoky roasted peppers and the addition of sausage will demand a little more from your choice. I like a Chianti Classico (make it a Riserva if you add the sausage) or Valpolicella Ripasso (makes everything better) —Even a Rose would be nice. Whatever your wine pleasure, you will surely love this sauce!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Spaghetti Carbonara

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An Afternoon With the Godfather – 

P1070374

Buon giorno!

Some of our memories are so perfect and vivid that they never fade. This is one of them, and I will share it with you. It is a tale that includes one of the most heavenly of Italian pasta dishes, SPAGHETTI CARBONARA. This dish supposedly hails from the region of Lazio, native to my mother, Loretta’s family. It is, like many from Italy, simple, and made from just a few well chosen and very good ingredients. Its origins are said to have been with a carbonai or charcoal maker who may have been the first to make it – thus the name Carbonara.  The simple ingredients include olive oil, onion, bacon (or pancetta or guanciale), Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, black pepper, salt,and egg yolks. Sound easy enough? Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. The key is the use of the best of each ingredient you can find. Note that I did not mention cream! This is an item added by some restaurants and recipes who attempt to over complicate the dish, and it is not an authentic addition. The egg yolks give the dish its creamy nature and golden color, and the miracle of the dish is in the TIMING! Putting this dish together quickly and while ingredients are hot is key to a successful result.

Now for the story! Godfathers are very special to Italians. They play an active role and are usually revered by the family. I am not referring to the godfathers of movie fame – all “mobbed up” and with a darker persona. Instead, I refer to the highly valued godfathers who play a special role  in the lives of Italian children as they grow and are truly a part of the family – the kind who watch over and gently guide. They stand ready to noticeably approve when you have done well – who encourage  – who nudge with kindness – and help when it is needed. That is the kind of godfather I had. He was almost a larger than life figure to me when I was very young – attractive, robust, generous of spirit, and always fun to be around. He was my father’s closest friend. Every Sunday, after mass at the Italian church, our families came together for breakfast. His name was Nick Corbisello – sometimes called N.R. – I affectionately called him “Compare Nick”. Compare (Sometimes pronounced Gumbah in Neapolitan dialect) is not directly translatable and can mean friend or family friend. Any true Southern Italian will know this term.

Shortly after I became engaged to be married, I visited Compare Nick, to introduce my future husband, hoping to gain his approval  – a tall order, as my fiance was NOT Italian! We had high hopes that he would pass inspection, but had nothing to fear as my godfather’s way was almost always approving and kind. On the day of this visit, Compare Nick’s cousin, young , handsome Aniello, who was on an extended visit from Italy, happened to be there. What good fortune for us, as the charming Aniello was a gifted cook, and it was lunchtime.While we sat at the kitchen table and shared a good bit of laughter and endless stories, Aniello effortlessly put together a lunch for us that my husband and I have never forgotten. It was the first time we had ever tasted SPAGHETTI CARBONARA. I watched him as he made the dish with a few simple ingredients. He used bacon instead of pancetta, as that was what was available in the refrigerator. I generally still use it for the dish, as that is the way it was first served to me. He served it in individual portions with an egg yolk at the side of each serving , so that each person could toss the spaghetti with a “personal yolk.”It was an amazing dish, golden in color, aromatic, and flavorful beyond almost anything I had ever tasted. That was 40 years ago, and it is still my husband’s favorite pasta dish. Fortunately, I watched Aniello carefully as he prepared it, so that through the years, I was able to prepare it in a similar way.

Recently, Compare Nick’s grandson, Nick Cerretani, was kind enough to put me in touch with Aniello’s daughter, the beautiful Susy, who kindly asked her father, living in Casamarciano, Italy, to confirm the original recipe, just to be sure. It was great to re-connect with Aniello after all these years through Susy. He remarkably remembered the now “famous” afternoon at Compare Nick’s where this splendid dish was first introduced to me and graciously shared his preparation for this blog post. Happily, Aniello still is a remarkable cook, and according to Nick ,grows most of his own vegetables, using and enjoying them in Napoletana style dishes. Some wonderful things just do not change!

I am grateful to Nick, Susy, and especially dear Aniello for still remembering that very special afternoon with my godfather and for sharing his cooking secrets with me.

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Spaghetti (cooked according to package directions)

1/3 lb. Bacon, Pancetta, or Guanciale (use more if you like) –For the very best bacon, I always recommend ordering from: Circle B Ranch !

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion coarsely chopped or sliced thinly (Aniello likes to use 1/2 an onion)

4 Egg yolks

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Pecorino Romano Cheese – grated

Lots of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Salt to taste

A little fresh parsley for garnish

More grated cheese to serve with the spaghetti at the table

Instructions

Fry the bacon in one pan. Chop the bacon after cooking – leaving it all in the drippings

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In another pan, fry the onions in the olive oil until tender.

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Separate four egg yolks and reserve.

Eggs carbonara

As soon as spaghetti is ready, mix the cooked bacon, drippings, cooked onion and oil, and the egg yolks in with it quickly while hot. Toss well.

Add the grated cheese, plenty of fresh pepper, and salt.

Add some fresh chopped parsley for garnish.

Serve with extra grated cheese.

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There you have it: SPAGHETTI CARBONARA – simple and beautiful, as suggested by Aniello Restaino from Casamarciano, Italy (in Campania near Napoli). Grazie, Aniello!

PARLA COME MANGI!

Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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